You can bet there was an outhouse back there

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 3, 2006

There seems to be a flurry of excitement about what used to be behind the deserted courthouse at the corner of Constance Road and Main Street, the big building with the bold white pillars.

That’s where the tourist department wants to camp out in future years when there might actually be tourists flocking to Suffolk. The move is probably due to the cramped conditions of the Prentis House and steep stairs to the second floor.

The courthouse is as much too big for that department, as the Prentis House is too small.

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At first the idea was to use the second floor of the courthouse as museum space, but that appears to have gone by the boards. Apparently there is not enough space downstairs for the tourist director, the staff, and pamphlets describing the many attractions. Seems to me that Riddicks Folly is about the size of the old courthouse, and look how much they pack into that space.

I’ve always thought the tourist bureau should be in the cultural center, a natural setting where there might be ample parking one day. The proposed new visitor center will be at the busiest intersection in Suffolk, and although there is room to park at the hotel, it is a dangerous walk across the street. There seems to be some magic about the Hilton Hotel being close to the tourist’s pamphlets at the visitor center, but you can bet pamphlets are also at the hotel.

And what about all the other motels around the city, what is so special about the hotel? Are tourists likely to stay at the most expensive digs? But I digress.

I will be surprised if anyone has a picture of the back of the courthouse; people back then did not have digital phone cameras, not even the old black box type. It was necessary then for the photographer to have one of those big flash pans to light up the area even in bright daylight.

This might help. not only would there be an outhouse back there with a Sears catalog hanging inside, there would have been a huge woodpile ready for stoking the pot-belly stove in winter.

On the right day there may also have been a horse and wagon driven there by the old farmer who was in court to pay a speeding ticket. Too early times for there to be a Model &uot;T&uot; parked there, owned by the judge … he probably came by horseback.

Some where in or near the old courthouse there must have been a &uot;reserved&uot; drinking fountain … and out behind, two outhouses. If women were as highly regarded as they are today, four outhouses.

Out front was the wooden stock for public punishment. I can see the News-Herald headline;

&uot;Man Caught Stealing Chickens Sentenced To 24 Hours In The Stock.&uot;

And on another matter … it seems to me that Congressman (Randy) Forbes gave up the drill to lobby cash for a Suffolk Dismal Swamp Visitor Center. The big bucks spent for his lobbying hadn’t paid off and it looks like Chesapeake is more in line to get the money if anybody does. But it appears our tourism director has convinced city officials that the Dismal Swamp has such tourist drawing power we must charge onward and buy our own Dismal Exhibit Center and put it next to the new visitor center. Wow, talk about lightning speed to spend our tax dollars.

Riddicks Folly should be allowed to expand into the courthouse, for the people who live here. That way more of their temporary displays could become permanent. And so much the better if tourists drop by.

The lease may have been a little steep for the Prentis House; we will know shortly after the tourist department moves out.

I guess the city does own the courthouse, and we might save some rent money. But any city worth a hoot has an expansive museum, if they want tourists, and I’m convinced Riddicks should grow into all floors of that corner building with the great white pillars. It just makes sense.